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  House of Frankenstein Back At The Lab
Year: 1944
Director: Erle C. Kenton
Stars: Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr, John Carradine, J. Carrol Naish, Anne Gwynne, Peter Coe, Lionel Atwill, George Zucco, Elena Verdugo, Sig Ruman, William Edmunds, Charles F. Miller, Philip Van Zandt, Julius Tannen, Hans Herbert, Dick Dickinson, Glenn Strange
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Dr Niemann (Boris Karloff) is in jail for grave robbing, and will be there for some time to come if the authorities get their way. He whiles away the hours writing with a stick of chalk on the stone walls of his cell, drafting and refining his research while another prisoner, the hunchback Daniel (J. Carrol Naish) looks on in awe and laps up the Doctor's tales of how they will both escape and how he will give Daniel a better body for his brain to inhabit. Suddenly, lightning strikes the old building and part of it collapses, allowing the pair to clamber free of their cells and out into the night...

After Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, Universal opted to put most of their horror eggs in one basket and team up three of their icons in one film. If the thought of seeing the Frankenstein Monster tussling with both Dracula and the Wolf Man sounds exciting, well it might have done, but from Edward T. Lowe's script, based on forties horror expert Curt Siodmak's story, they end up missing each other in a plot that gives each their chance in the limelight, only not simultaneously.

Along with those three creatures, the Mummy having been proposed but finally not included for budgetary reasons, there's the traditional figure of chillers of this era, the mad scientist. It's fun to see Karloff practically run away with the film as not the Monster, but as the man bringing him to life, suggesting he would have made a very good Doctor Frankenstein if he had never been up for that other, more celebrated role. Once free, Niemann and Daniel find themselves aboard a travelling sideshow, a chamber of horrors appropriately enough, and after dispatching with its owner (George Zucco in a brief minute or two onscreen) they set out for the village of Frankenstein.

Confusingly, if you had been closely following the previous film, the village of Vasaria is now not only called Visaria, but it's not the village that the castle and house of Frankenstein is situated near. No matter, as before the dastardly duo reach their destination so Niemann can take look at those precious notes, we have a brush with Dracula, whose bones - complete with stake through the heart - are in the sideshow. Of course, the stake is removed and the skeleton turns into the dapperly-dressed Count, here politely played by John Carradine, and we are treated to a little vampire movie-within-a-movie.

While entertaining, you wish that Dracula had hung around for a bit longer so he could have met The Wolf Man and even the Monster. As it is, Niemann and Daniel find those two frozen under the ruins of the castle and set about defrosting them. Lawrence Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr back again) is none too pleased, but in an overfamiliar turn he gets his hopes up that the scientist can cure him thanks to Frankenstein's research. He even gets love interest with alluring gypsy girl Ilonka (Elena Verdugo) who Daniel also has his eyes on, but thwarted desires are part of the deal with these films, and it can only end in tragedy. Could this be the first film where silver bullets are used against a werewolf? While decent entertainment, this instalment was obviously looking for fresh ideas, and it didn't really find them. Music by Hans J. Salter.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Erle C. Kenton  (1896 - 1980)

American director who made over 100 films in a 50 year career. Worked as a bit-part actor before making his feature debut in 1919, and was best known for directing comedies, including two of Abbott & Costello’s best films – Pardon My Sarong and Who Done It?. Kenton also proved adept in the horror genre, directing the 1933 classic Island of Lost Souls, with Charles Laughton, as well as House of Dracula, Ghost of Frankenstein and The Cat Creeps. Died from Parkinson's disease in 1980.

 
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